Black people experiencing joy is nothing new, but since the #blackjoy hashtag became popular online, the movement has also spread in real life.
A decade ago, an online and offline movement amplified Black voices and highlighted Black joy. The moments of joy provide a new — and fewer seen — look into everyday Black American life.
But the movement's pioneers have done more than exhibit photographs to convey that precious inner light. They've helped the Black community and oppressed groups heal.
Joyful Black Spaces photographer Adreinne Waheed
Adreinne Waheed, a Brooklyn and Berkeley-based photographer, captures Black joy. Waheed feels Black joy shines brightest when people can express themselves "completely and freely."
Waheed's book Black Joy & Resistance documents Black Americans' experience of joy as resistance and the development of joyous spaces, including the Afropunk event in Brooklyn, New York.
Black Girls Smile founder Lauren Carson
Lauren Carson swore to help other Black women and girls get culturally appropriate care after her own mental health difficulties left her searching for racially sensitive and gender-responsive solutions. She started Black Girls Smile in 2012 to inspire and educate young Black girls and women about mental health.
Carson wants to transform the world through promoting therapy, self-care, and coping skills. It's Black joy's future.
Call 911 if you or a loved one needs immediate help. Call 800-273-8255 or text 741-741 to reach a Crisis Text Line counselor.
The Black Joy Project's Kleaver Cruz
Kleaver Cruz, a writer and educator in New York City, launched The Black Joy Project after personal and community losses. Black LGBT Dominican American Cruz believes that Black people have always experienced joy despite centuries of persecution. He decided to organize others on a journey to feel joy and begin healing.
The Black Joy Project has helped redefine the narrative about Black people's holistic experiences and emotions: It's not all trauma and pain.
Cruz says The Black Joy Project has always been about connecting and highlighting underrepresented black voices. "We need to be in particular places, not just visible, but with the potential to effect changes," they add.
They're also writing a book about Black joy and how it's a kind of resistance to help the struggle.
Kwame Mbalia: Author and Editor of ‘Black Boy Joy’
Kwame Mbalia writes for 8 to 12-year-olds. Mbalia launched Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood in August 2021, a children's anthology with 17 prominent Black authors.
Danielle Young was the first to coin the word "Black Boy Joy" in her piece "Thanks to Chance the Rapper, #BlackBoyJoy Is a Thing." Mbalia's usage of the phrase succeeded, too: The children's book became a New York Times No. 1 bestseller.
The North Carolina novelist hopes his writings bring people joy. Mbalia's mother is a writer and his father is a fascinating speaker. He says stories endure and people become friends with the characters.
Black Queer Joy Movement founder Dalila Ali Rajah
Dalila Ali Rajah, a Los Angeles-based actor and writer, established Black Queer Joy in 2019.
Cultural oppression and systematic racism have worked to obstruct Black joy for hundreds of years, propagating the perception that Black joy "cannot be long-lasting," Rajah argues.
Rajah embraces delight daily. Her joy comes from storytelling and connections. She calls herself an artivist and storyteller.
Rajah established Black Queer Joy after watching Wanuri Kahiu's Kenya-based queer love story Rafiki with her transgender son at Outfest Fusion QTBIPOC Film Festival in March 2019.
Rajah cried in the cinema lobby after the film's emotional roller coaster. She started Black Queer Joy thereafter.
Since then, she's been swamped with Instagram comments as the campaign gains steam.
Black Joy Parade founder Elisha Greenwell
First staged in 2018, the Black Joy Parade won a Community Juneteenth Impact Award in 2020 for "elevating and fostering Black joy for our community," she said.
Every February, the Black Joy Parade is held.
Trans writer, speaker, and organizer August Clayton
August Clayton is the creator and executive director of Mosaic, a mid-Atlantic and DC-Maryland-Virginia organization for Black trans men and masculine people.
Clayton, from Maryland, defines Black joy as finding and sharing joy.
He wants his family to have home, healthcare, enjoyment, experiences, and a life where survival is not the goal.
Clayton uses his platform as a joymaker to organize and motivate Black transgender and queer folks.